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5 Keys: Sharks at Golden Knights, Game 4

San Jose shuffles forwards without suspended center Thornton; Vegas needs second line to stay hot

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist


10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVAS2, ATTSN-RM, NBCSCA

Vegas leads best-of-7 series 2-1


[RELATED: Complete Sharks vs. Golden Knights series coverage]


The San Jose Sharks will try to tie the Western Conference First Round by winning Game 4 against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena on Tuesday.

The Sharks have lost back-to-back games by a combined score of 11-6. They will not have center Joe Thornton, who was suspended for one game for an illegal check to the head of Golden Knights forward Tomas Nosek in Game 3.

Here are 5 keys for Game 4:


1. Replace Thornton

Thornton is the leading active scorer in the NHL, the heartbeat of the locker room, a matchup problem as a third-line center and a mainstay on the power play.

Without him, Joe Pavelski will move from right wing on the first line to center. With forward Micheal Haley also day to day with a leg injury, forwards Joonas Donskoi and Lukas Radil will dress for the first time in the series.

Donskoi hasn't scored in his past 34 games; however, his last goal was the winner in a 3-2 victory against the Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena on Jan. 10.

"Sometimes you feel like you're hot in certain buildings, and I think that's the mental thought you have before the game," Donskoi said. "I've been sitting out now for a while, and I'm full of energy. I just want to get out there and help the team."


2. Sharks can't keep playing from behind

Nine times in 17 games between these teams, Vegas has scored the first goal within the first five minutes. Five times in the past six periods, Vegas has scored in the first 91 seconds. The Golden Knights scored within the first 36 seconds in each period of Game 3.

"It's not one thing," Pavelski said. "It's always one little play here or there. They've capitalized on pretty much every one of those chances they've had early on. So credit to them for jumping on plays and making plays. We've just got to be better, plain and simple."


3. Jones must be better

Though teammates' mistakes haven't helped Sharks goalie Martin Jones, he hasn't bailed them out enough either. Jones is drifting instead of setting his feet, and he's losing his angle. The Golden Knights are beating him high repeatedly.

Jones was pulled from Game 2 in the first period after allowing three goals on seven shots. At that point, it was the fifth time in 15 games against Vegas he had gotten the hook. He wasn't pulled from Game 3 but allowed six goals on 40 shots

He's 1-1 with a 5.24 goals-against average and an .849 save percentage in the series.


4. Second line carrying Golden Knights

The three leading scorers in the playoffs entering Tuesday were all on one line, Vegas' so-called second line.

Mark Stone led the NHL with six goals, three more than anyone else, and was tied for the lead with eight points.

"It's fun to play against him," said defenseman Erik Karlsson, who played with Stone with the Ottawa Senators. "You just have to find a way to find that next level for yourself."

Paul Stastny also has eight points (two goals, six assists). Max Pacioretty has six (two goals, four assists).


5. Vegas must use depth

The Golden Knights need others to contribute more. The Pacioretty-Stastny-Stone line has 10 goals. The rest of the team has three, and this is supposed to be a four-line team.

Forwards Reilly Smith (one assist), Jonathan Marchessault (one assist), William Karlsson (one goal) and Alex Tuch (one assist) haven't produced much yet. They were first, second, third and sixth, respectively, on the team during the Golden Knights' run to the Stanley Cup Final last year.

The Golden Knights need to take advantage of this opportunity. A victory gives them three chances to eliminate the Sharks, including one at T-Mobile Arena. Lose, and the series is tied 2-2 heading back to San Jose.


Sharks projected lineup

Timo Meier -- Logan Couture -- Kevin Labanc

Evander Kane -- Tomas Hertl -- Joonas Donskoi

Marcus Sorensen -- Joe Pavelski -- Gustav Nyquist

Lukas Radil -- Barclay Goodrow -- Melker Karlsson

Joakim Ryan -- Brent Burns

Brenden Dillon -- Erik Karlsson

Tim Heed -- Justin Braun

Martin Jones

Aaron Dell

Scratched: None

Injured: Marc-Edouard Vlasic (undisclosed), Micheal Haley (lower body)

Suspended: Joe Thornton


Golden Knights projected lineup

Max Pacioretty -- Paul Stastny -- Mark Stone

Jonathan Marchessault -- William Karlsson -- Reilly Smith

Tomas Nosek -- Cody Eakin -- Alex Tuch

William Carrier -- Pierre-Edouard Bellemare -- Ryan Reaves

Nate Schmidt -- Deryk Engelland

Brayden McNabb -- Shea Theodore

Jon Merrill -- Colin Miller

Marc-Andre Fleury

Malcolm Subban

Scratched: Nikita Gusev , Ryan Carpenter, Valentin Zykov, Nick Holden, Jimmy Schuldt, Brandon Pirri

Injured: Erik Haula (lower body)


Status report

Vlasic and Haley did not participate at the morning skate and are not expected to play. … Eakin did not take part in the morning skate but is expected to play.

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